Estonia has been willing to take in no more immigrants than 0.1 percent of its permanent population in recent years. The figure comes to 1,317 people this year, and the Police and Border Guard Board (PPA) is convinced the quota will be filled before the year is out.
“Forecasts suggest the number of applications will also rise in 2017, and we believe the limit will be reached before the year's end, meaning we will have to refuse residence permits on account of the immigration quota,” the PPA writes in a letter to the interior ministry.
In recent years the problem has rather been shortage of applicants as a number of temporary residence permits have not been issued.
The PPA finds that the state should consider whether the quota is sustainable and necessary in this form as migration policy tends to favor immigration of people who want to contribute to the country's economy.
Adviser at the citizenship and migration policy department of the Ministry of Internal Affairs, Harry Kattai, said that Estonia had issued 1,218 temporary residence permits as of last week.
“The quota will probably be filled a few weeks before the end of the year,” he concurred. “In a situation where people have already applied for a residence permit but no longer fit in the quota, it is sensible to extent the proceedings deadline and give people the permit in January of next year,” he said.
The PPA forecasts that people who will have to wait for next year before they can move to Estonia number around 100.
The content of the concept of “immigration quota” has changed considerably since its introduction in 1990. If originally the quota concerned all foreigners, irrespective of the purpose of moving to Estonia and citizenship, today it regulates (mostly) business and labor immigration of people from third countries.
Employers have sought a bigger quota for years, criticizing its outdated principles. They maintain that it is too complicated to bring qualified labor into the country.
Current plans also prescribe the quota for next year, when it will probably also be set at 1,317 people. Because the Riigikogu is working on an amendment to the Foreigners Act that would exempt investors, startup entrepreneurs, and other ICT sector workers from the quota, the interior ministry hopes it will solve the problem of there being no place for highly qualified people in Estonia.
Estonia becomes the home of more than 6,500 people not covered by the quota every year. A little less than half are citizens of the EU, the EEA, and Switzerland exercising their right of free movement. The quota also does not cover citizens of the USA and Japan, as well as foreigners who move in with relatives, come to Estonia to study or teach, or have graduated from an Estonian university. People applying for international protection also do not fall under the immigration quota.